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Harley Granville-Barker, William Shakespeare

Prefaces to Shakespeare: Hamlet (Vintage 1963 Illustrated)

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Quite possibly the best single text that you will read on the topic of study of Hamlet. Granville-Barker has some general things to say about the makeup of the play, but then he goes scene by scene, talking of motivations, continuity, staging concerns, lines that fit or don’t fit. He talks of the verse and the prose, and how the characters use each differently to different effect. He goes character by character, their significance and interrelationships. It’s knowledgeable of the scholarship that’s come before but never lapses into academic nonsense; indeed, he always keeps a keen eye on the idea that it’s a play and therefore meant to be performed, approaching everything from that perspective. Certainly in some respects it’s outdated, closing in on 100 years old, but throughout it shows a sympathy to the secondary characters that modern directors could do well to take note of.

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